Dethonray DTR1 Prelude

Jack of not all trades, yet Master of one!

PROS: neutral revealing tonality, holographic soundstage, small footprint and minimalistic design, high output current head-amp, partitioned battery power design.

CONS: micro-HDMI connector with a proprietary charger, very minimalistic interface which is still work in progress, needs iEMatch with low impedance/sensitive iems.

The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.

Manufacturer website: Dethonray.  Available for sale on Penon Audio.


Intro.

Many audio enthusiasts are familiar with a phrase that it’s not about the component but its implementation.  Yet, I was still skeptical when heard a buzz about the new kid on the block with a flagship sound quality boutique DAP designed around one AK4490 DAC with a single-ended output.  It was hard to ignore it when more and more people approached me with either their impressions or asking if I’m going to review this DAP.  When Anson Tse, the creator of Dethonray DTR1 Prelude, reached out to me directly, I decided to give it a shot.

Prior to getting my hands on this DAP, I had a number of discussions with Anson, learning about his background, his design philosophy, and his work with over 10 years of experience in audio field.  And knowing my review background while covering the latest touch screen feature-packed players, Anson also wanted to make sure I have an open mind when approaching his minimalistic audio playback only DAP.  There was no pressure to review it, just to give it a listen and to provide a feedback.  But after a few weeks with DTR1, I felt it was time for a full review.

If you are after a touch screen audio player with a fancy GUI and all kinds of bells’n’whistles, this DAP is probably not for you.  But if your #1, #2, and #3 priority is the sound quality and nothing else, you might be interested to find out more about DTR1.

dethonray_dtr1-16

Unboxing and Accessories.

DTR1 arrived in a premium looking packaging with a company name/logo in silver print on top of the sleeve.  Once removed and after lifting the magnetic box cover, DAP was securely placed in a foam cutout at the top.  At a glance, it looked very compact.  Underneath, there was an envelope with a quick start guide, a warranty card, and also a wall charger.

It’s a small printed guide but has a lot of useful info, including instructions how to upgrade the fw and a detailed description of all the controls.  The wall charger cable is not removable and has micro-HDMI connector to DTR1.  I know, it’s going to puzzle many people why you would lock yourself into a less common micro-HDMI connector and a proprietary charging cable.

From what I understand, this connector has 19 pins which can bring in and out more signals, adding more functionality in a future.  The wall charger is custom designed with +8.6V (600mA) and -8.6V (300mA) outputs for quick charging the internal higher voltage batteries.  The charger has red/green LED indicator which stays red while charging and turns green when charging is done.

Soon the Dethonray will be offering these chargers for sale, as a replacement or as a spare when traveling.  Also, just a comment but considering there is no USB/HDMI cable to connect DTR1 to your computer and since you have to remove microSD card to copy files, it would be useful in a future to include microSD card adapter or USB reader with accessories.

Page 2 – Design, Under the hood, and GUI.
Page 3 – Sound analysis and Pair up.
Page 4 – Comparison and Conclusion.

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18 thoughts on “Dethonray DTR1 Prelude

  1. Nice review, I’ve been keeping an eye on the head-fi thread and eagerly awaiting your impressions. My wallet is about to get lighter, but thankfully not by too much by today’s hifi standards!

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  2. Hi !
    Great review as usual, I ordered the DAP, please let me know which type of cable you are using in you T5P showed.
    Thanks and best regards

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    1. That was a Whiplash silver plated copper cable from many years ago. That company no longer in business. T5p 2nd gen actually benefits greatly from pure copper cables.

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      1. Exactly, they supply a pure cooper 7N cable very good, but it is NOT silver plated, so the sound might be slightly different

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  3. this player came in about ~10 year too late…. to charge this kind of $$ for a device that only plays audio in 2019….even if it sounds totl, in such an old format, no internal storage, no os… there’s no excuse to it…
    the audiofoolery money making machine keeps on going…

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  4. Any chance you can compare to the iBasso DX120? Different price and spec, but similar concept of a bare-bones DAP that prioritizes sound quality.

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    1. while a similar concept, totally different technical sound performance and set of features. DX120 is a nice average mid-fi level DAP. DTR1 is in a league of summit-fi flagships, especially when you want to drive demanding headphones or need more current for those planar magnetic drivers. On the other hand, DX120 has regular usb port, touch screen interface, and other options which DTR1 falls short of.

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  5. Another question – did you try the DTR1 with any Westone IEMs? I’m particularly interested in how it pairs with the W60s and ES60s. Thanks!

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    1. Just tested it for you with W60 and ES60. W60, doesn’t sound too go in Low gain, so I switched to Medium, more clarity and less congestion in sound, I have to keep the volume 8. This is a touch of background “waterfall” hissing, then, I switched to iEMatch, can raise the volume to 40. The pair up is really good, very balanced, natural, detailed sound. Btw, I’m sure W60 v2. Now, with ES60, it sounds very close to W60 v2, but straight from DTR1 there is a lot more hissing, so need to use iEMatch. With iEMatch, ES60 pair up is even better than W60 v2. More transparency, better dynamics. Really like this one! But either one pair ups great with DTR1, but you will need iEMatch here.

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    1. it will depend on pair up synergy with different earphones and headphones. Plus, keep in mind, Micro has a built in iematch while in some cases you will have to use a separate iematch with DTR1. But in general, DTR1 sound is more transparent, more layered, while Micro is smoother, more natural.

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